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Is Rio ready for redevelopment?

Posted at 5:05 PM, May 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-08 18:30:15-04

Governor Rick Scott recently declared 245 areas of the state would be set up as Opportunity Zones.  35 of them are in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.

On a bright sunny day, Greg Hall walks to the family A/C business.

“Started in 1960.  Moved us down from Detroit," said Hall.

He has seen plenty of change in the Rio community.  He points to a corner that once housed a trailer park and a laundromat but now is an undeveloped parcel and some new benches.

Governor Rick Scott just named Rio one of two Opportunity Zones in Martin County.

“Rio is on the brink of what I like to call the implementation of the vision," said Susan Kores, who manages the Martin County Office of Community Development.

“We come in and do the things that get these areas ready for private investors to come in," added Kores.

Kores says the Opportunity Zones basically provide tax credits to developers.

Kores thinks there will be big changes in the next few years.  A sign along State Road 707 announces the Rio Town Center.  It was supposed to have some buildings up by now, but it's still an undeveloped lot.  Though the county approved its master plan, the property is for sale.

“What they’re waiting on now is for investment to happen. So for Rio and this project, it couldn’t be a better time for us to be an Opportunity Zone," said Kores.

But do residents welcome this change?  Already, one luxury development is under construction.

“If it’s done tastefully and with the environment in mind that’s one thing.  If it’s done and dollar signs is all it’s about, then it’s a problem," said Greg Selig.

“It was going to bring a lot of people and we don’t need more people in Rio," said John Fitzgerald.

But Greg Hall thinks Rio’s secret may get out.

“This property is a choice piece of property with a marina and the whole bit.  Someone will get a hold of it," said Hall.

The US Treasury Department has to formally approve these opportunity zones. It expects to do that in the coming weeks.